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Surpassing the Passive Hero in Waverly by Sir Walter Scott - Essay Example

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Surpassing the Passive Hero in Waverly by Sir Walter Scott

Essentially Welsh seems to attempt to debunk the idea that Scott was even a good novelist, let alone a great romantic novelist, within his books. Welsh admits that Waverly is the prototype for the modern novel, but then goes on to argue the various weaknesses within Scott's technique. He suggests that Scott is not a realist, as he seems incapable of drawing a realistic portrayal of life. Neither is he capable of any type of analysis according to Welsh; he argues succinctly that "Scott never criticizes his own society" (Welsh, 1963). Also, Scott is not a very good romantic writer either as he has no full knowledge of the human heart and his characters are "notoriously unemotional" (Welsh, 1963). By way of proving this, Welsh suggests that Waverly's only emotional moment in his very brief attachment to Flora.
. . . . the hero is obviously much more at home as a peacemaker than as a warrior, and it is amusing to watch Waverly racing ahead over the battlefield in order to rescue Hanoverian officers, and then being commended for his distinguished service by the chevalier.
According to Welsh, the hero of Waverly is irredeemably passive and thus incapable of realistically portraying action and an active role within society. The hoer is caught within an intensely moralistic society which essentially stifles him. A true hero, according to Welsh, at least within the modern period, is a man for whom "masculinity meant self-control under the most trying circumstances" (Welsh, 1963). These characteristics he sees more within the insular, inward-looking Talbot rather than in the antics of Fergus rushing around Scotland performing traditionally "heroic" deeds.
Part of this passivity, according to Welsh, stems from the fact that Scott's novels often revolve around the relationship between the individual and the state. In Waverly the hero adopts a positively Twentieth Century stance as he paradoxically invites and then resists his own arrest. He is contradictory if incredibly passive, at least in a traditionally "heroic" sense.
But does this need to be an "either/or" question or can it be "both/and" Can the hero of Waverly exhibit passivity at one point and action at another and still be believable It would seem that the answer to this is a categorical "yes". Real human beings do not act according to a formulaic design for their character. He is not either a "passive character" or a "hero". He can be passive and active according to the moment.
A simple glance at what actually occurs in Waverly belies the simple dichotomies that Welsh sets up in his attempted criticism of the novel. The opening of the novel starts with Waverly taking very real action, both in terms of his physical movements and in his decision making. Waverly is brought up in the family home of his Uncle, near London, but is soon given a commission in the Hanoverian army and is posted to Dundee, in Scotland. If he were purely passive he would not have taken up this commission in the first place. As soon as he arrives in Dundee, Waverly decides to take leave in order to meet the Jacobite friend of his Uncle, Baron ...Show more

Summary

The works of Walter Scott had a profound effect upon the development of the novel as a form, particularly the historical novels. In total he wrote twenty-seven of them, many of which were some of the most popular works of his time. The passage of time has led to many of his ideas seeming to become rather dated and perhaps obsolete, especially regarding the various manifestations of the "hero" that he creates in his novels…
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Surpassing the Passive Hero in Waverly by Sir Walter Scott essay example
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